Tsai suggests law revision after Taiwan euthanizes 154 smuggled pet cats
Taipei, Aug. 22 (CNA) President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said late Saturday that she was saddened by the government's decision to put down 154 pet cats that had been smuggled into the country the previous day, and she said an amendment of the relevant law should be considered so that smuggled animals can be treated more humanely.
Tsai, who is known to be a cat lover, said in a Facebook post that due to the selfishness of the smugglers, all of those lives were lost earlier in the day, when quarantine officers in Kaohsiung euthanized the 154 cats.
In her late night post, Tsai condemned the actions of the five-member crew on a fishing boat that was carrying 62 cages of smuggled cats, including breeds such as Russian Blue, Ragdoll, Persian American Shorthair, and British Shorthair.
The cats were handed over Friday to the Kaohsiung branch of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection (BAPHIQ) by Coast Guard officers, who had intercepted the fishing vessel on Thursday nine nautical miles off the coast of Tainan, based on a tip off, and had escorted it into Kaohsiung port, according to the BAPHIQ branch.
After obtaining a search warrant and testing the boat crew for COVID-19, Coast Guard officers had boarded the vessel and found the 154 cats in cages. The captain admitted that the boat had been on its way to Taiwan with the smuggled cats, before it was intercepted, the Coast Guard said.
As the origin of the cats was unknown, they were euthanized Saturday to prevent the import of infectious diseases that may threaten the health of other animals and humans in the nation, the BAPHIQ said.
In President Tsai's comment on the issue, she said she was saddened by the incident, but she asked the public to understand that the BAPHIQ had to euthanize the cats to prevent the importation of infectious diseases, in accordance with the country's laws.
Consideration should be given, however, to amending the law to allow for a more humane approach in such cases, she added.
Asked to comment on the issue, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) expressed similar views, saying Sunday that it was sad but necessary to put down the cats to prevent infectious diseases from entering Taiwan, and the government had no other choice.
The government will revisit the relevant policy and see whether smuggled animals could be handled in a more humane way, he said, adding that disease prevention regulations must also be maintained.
Meanwhile, Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲), head of the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture under which the BAPHIQ falls, said Saturday that the cats were put down in accordance with the law, to protect the health of other domestic animals and people and to safeguard the environment.
It was absolutely necessary to euthanize the cats, Chen said, adding that he took full responsibility for the decision.
He suggested that the Smuggling Penalty Act be amended to impose stiffer penalties for animal and plant smuggling.
Also commenting on the issue, BAPHIQ Deputy Director-General Hsu Jung-pin (徐榮彬) said Saturday in a statement that the bureau must tighten its animal quarantine regulations to prevent the entry of infectious diseases that can affect both humans and animals.
He cited the example of mad cow disease, which infects cows and is transmissible to humans.
When humans contract mad cow disease, doctors call it Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), a fatal and rapidly progressive degenerative brain disorder that leads to dementia and other neurological symptoms. CJD has a 100 percent fatality rate and no known cure.
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